How The Bushes Will Change Dallas Real EstateHow the Bushes will change Dallas real estate, from the Cooper Aerobics Center to Tom Hicks’ living room.
by Mary Candace Evans, illustration by Peter Horvath
Since 1988, George W. Bush has kept a private locker at the Cooper Fitness Center. For security reasons, the name plate simply read “George Walker.” In January that changed. Dr. Kenneth Cooper promoted his patient and running buddy. He moved the former president’s cube to the No. 1 spot. And now the name plate bears the full “George W. Bush.”
There’s no word out of the Cooper Center about who got booted from, or graciously gave up, locker No. 1. But you can bet that the cachet of locker No. 2 has risen considerably. Such is the impact that George and Laura will have on Dallas real estate.
In 1994, George and Laura left a 3,600-square-foot Austin stone home with a gravel driveway on one-half acre at 6029 Northwood. The Bushes lived in Preston Hollow—but they lived east of Preston Road, not in the enclave of high net worth west of Preston called Old Preston Hollow or “The Honeypot.” The relative modesty of their home endeared them to their neighbors. Laura was a quiet homemaker. She seldom had a housekeeper and is said to have bleached her own countertops. Both she and George carpooled their daughters to school in a Suburban. When his parents visited, No. 41 and Barbara stayed in the guest house and sprinkled Secret Service around town, which was kind of fun. Dallas sent them off to Austin with enthusiasm, kind of sad to see them go. This city practically exploded with pride when he went to D.C. “Austin? George Bush is from Big D.”
Now, 15 years later, he’s back, and Dallas has changed. My 27-year-old Uptown hairdresser said she would refuse to style Laura’s locks, which I don’t believe, but she’s not alone in her dislike. Dallas County went nearly 60 percent for Barack Obama. We are larger, more diverse. Travel north of LBJ, the psychological dividing line of blue-chip real estate from the burbs, and you find entire communities of Sikhs, Buddhists, and Muslims. George Bush may have super-glued himself to the religious right, but while he was gone, Dallas grew more liberal and tolerant. Gay men hold hands, kiss in public, and lead corporations. You see more Birkenstocks, even at the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on Central. Whole Foods has stores across the city. We eat more fiber and yogurt and save the fat grams in ribs for special occasions. Even our garbage collection has changed. The former president will have to divide his paper and plastic from the rest of his rubbish.
Then there was the housing boom that changed the face of North Dallas. The Bush administration’s housing policy aimed to make home ownership a dream come true for every American—including some who probably should have limited their dreams to multi-family housing. But when money is cheap and anyone can get a mortgage, why not? We all got newer homes, bigger homes. You couldn’t drive down the street without picking up a nail in your tire from some construction project. The mid-century ranches were scrapped to make way for 7,000-square-foot stone castle-ettes with turrets, porte-cocheres, and a media rooms. It all began pre-Bush, at the tail of the ’90s dot-com boom, but those low interest rates magnified the momentum. Now even homes built in 1994 look worn.
When I first reported on the DallasDirt real estate blog that the Bushes had bought a home on Daria Place, off Meaders Lane, life on the quiet Mayflower Estates cul-de-sac changed forever. Choppers swooped, and television news trucks put up their microwave masts. In eight hours, images of 10141 were beamed across the world on television and the Internet. A steady parade of gawkers streamed through the neighborhood, and it seemed for a time like living near the Bushes wasn’t going to be much fun. (Except when it’s time to sell.)
The gate incident allayed that fear. On January 7, an unusual neighborhood meeting took place at the 25-acre estate of Cynda and Tom Hicks, which backs up against the new Bush home. Everyone who lives on Daria Drive and Daria Place was invited to the Hickses’ for an hour-long meeting to find out what was going to happen to their street now that the Bushes were moving in.
“The Hickses were incredibly gracious,” says a person who attended the meeting. “I think he was even busy that night, but we felt if we had the meeting at his home, everyone would attend.”
Refreshments were offered—water, sodas, no alcohol. Also in attendance: Secret Service agents and officials from the city of Dallas. Tom Hicks welcomed everyone, and then he said, “We have a call from the president.” He put George Bush on speakerphone to chat up his new neighbors for the first time.
“I cannot tell you how excited Laura and I are about our new home and neighborhood,” George said from his ranch in Crawford. “I promise to keep my lawn mowed and be a good neighbor.” He apologized for any inconvenience their home purchase was causing. The president said he hoped they could have a gate if all the neighbors agreed. Bush clearly wanted their support, but he didn’t need it. When his father, George H.W. Bush, moved back to Houston, Texas passed a law that gives cities the right to erect a gate at a former president’s residence. Still, George W. discussed with his neighbors what the gate would look like, how it would operate. He mentioned that he’d pay for its construction. Questions were answered, everyone was asked to sign a form to give the city the go-ahead, and George thanked them and said he couldn’t wait to move into his new home.
Before he hung up, the president drew attention to a 14-year-old boy and future neighbor who was at the meeting in the Hicks home. His name was Jacob. Back in 2004, he had given George Bush a small donation for his second presidential campaign.
“I hope he remembers he sent me a dollar,” George said. “Jacob, I want to shake your hand and look you in the eye and see if I spent your dollar wisely.”
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